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Hawaiian Management Model

As the popularity of swim with dolphins programs increases, the agencies responsible for the welfare of the animals struggle to find balance. On one hand these programs increase awareness of dolphins on the other hand we are impacting their natural environment.

Both common sense and scientific research show that we need to avoid interrupting the dolphin’s natural behavior, especially their feeding and resting periods.  The question is, how do you regulate protection for an animal that tolerates and seeks out humans in their environment?  And once guidelines are established, how do you enforce them?  And how do government agencies police the situation?  Are there solutions that may be unique to Hawaii? How did Hawaiians traditionally manage marine life? These are questions that WDF is working on.

Hawaiians are masterful in the art of self regulation. Can this be adapted to regulation of the swim with dolphin industry?  In THE USE OF TRADITIONAL HAWAIIAN KNOWLEDGE IN THE CONTEMPORARY MANAGEMENT OF MARINE RESOURCES  by KELSON K. POEPOE, PAUL K. BARTRAM, AND ALAN M. FRIEDLANDER, the authors come to the conclusion that Hawaiians have evolved an effective fisheries management strategy that may or may not be applicable in other regions:

“The resource management systems of indigenous people often have outcomes that are analogous to those desired by Western conservationist. They differ, however, in context, motive and conceptual underpinnings. To represent indigenous management systems as being well suited to the needs of modern conservation, or as founded on the same ethic, is both facile and wrong.” Dwyer (1994, p. 91).

However when you really think about it, the question here isn’t whether or not indigenous management systems suit the needs of modern conservation.  The question is, can you apply those strategies to managing and safeguarding the local dolphin population?  Historically, the Hawaiians had no need to manage the dolphins, but there is no reason to think that their time tested methods would not work.

The authors go on to write:

“Hawaiian fishermen understand and interpret natural phenomena differently than Western-trained scientists. The Hawaiian system is based on knowledge that is:

• Generated as a consequence of practical needs in everyday life;

• Based on intimate acquaintance with a local situation;

• Linked to specific places and sets of experiences;

• Preserved through the memories of particular individuals;

• Orally transmitted;

• Continually reinforced by experience, trial and error, and deliberate experiment;

• Dynamic and evolving, not static and rigid.

• Transferred through the practices and interactions of subsistence fishermen; and

• Shared in the community to a wider extent than conventional scientific knowledge about marine resources.”

It is worth consideration that given a chance the companies that promote dolphin based tourism in Hawaii can self regulate more successfully than they might in other regions, and in doing so share with government agencies the burden of looking out for the welfare of the animals. 

 Submitted by: Candace Calloway Whiting


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